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Tony Bennett charms crowds at Westbury show

Astoria native Tony Bennett sang the hits Friday night in Westbury.
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Tony Bennett may be 90 years old, but the jazz crooner from Astoria is still smooth and energetic on stage.

“‘Because of you,’ Tony,” a man in the stands called out. “Astoria is here, Tony, ‘Because of You.’”

The audience at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury cheered for Bennett last Friday night as he lightly moved about the performance space, dancing and singing the crowd-favorites that still draw music lovers of all ages. The packed show opened with his daughter, Antonia Bennett, who tours with her father while showcasing an electricity of her own.

Antonia Bennett sang standards such as Frank Sinatra’s “From this Moment On” and “Always on my Mind,” made famous by Willie Nelson. Antonia, Bennett, who has made her own career in music, studied at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute, and graduated from the Berklee College Of Music in Boston.

Tony Bennett performed some of his originals while paying tribute to jazz greats such as Duke Ellington with “Solitude,” and Ella Fitzgerald with “I’m Old Fashioned.” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” off Bennett’s first record with Columbia, released in 1950, drew gasps from the crowd.

Bennett ended the show with a dark and climatic performance of “How Do You Keep The Music Playing” and received a standing ovation from an emotional crowd.

His father died when he was only 10 years old and he was raised in his Astoria home by his mother. A handful of relatives were Bennett’s support group, and they encouraged him to pursue music and improve his skills. He attended the High School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan and idolized figures like Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and James Durante.

In World War II, Bennett served in the Army and performed with military bands, before returning home to continue studying vocals at the American Theatre Wing School.

Bennett began playing shows throughout the city and had a breakthrough in his career in 1949 when comedian Bob Hope noticed him at a Greenwich Village performance.

Although Bennett has seen the evolution of music from the golden age of jazz, the singer has yet to fade from the spotlight.

Bennett went on to sell millions of copies of his music across the world while earning platinum and gold records to his name. He has won 17 Grammy Awards and the Grammy Lifetime Award, including one for his 1995 MTV Unplugged performance, which brought the old-school singer back into relevance.

Bennett’s 2007 Primetime special “Tony Bennett: An American Classic” won seven Emmy Awards.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Updated 10:22 am, April 24, 2017
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